Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Sunday, December 05, 2004


A splendid time was had by all at the Friday night show. Many people played, almost all well and enjoyably. My own two-song stint went off swell.


* Carla Torgerson singing a quiet song and transforming a noisy bar into a quiet and attentive bar through the power of her stage presence and the loveliness of her voice. Transfixing.

* Christy McWilson’s two song set, backed up by members of her old band the Picketts, John Olufs on lead (acoustic) guitar and Blackie Sleep on snare drum, both of them singing harmonies. A new rockabilly belting number (Christy is an ace belter) with the refrain, “He never was a family man.” Followed by a cover of the Beatles’ “Think For Yourself,” complete with vocal harmonies and lead guitar licks, and all the energy and passion of a rockin’ live performance. Christy told me afterwards that she has a new album completed, produced by Kurt Bloch of the Young Fresh Fellows and the late lamented Fastbacks, but she has no distribution and no time to promote it.

* Rusty Willoughby playing a beautiful song mostly on one string of the guitar, mostly one note accompanying a hushed melody, guitar part beautifully broken up with occasional diaphonous chords.

* Joe the bartender butchering Barry Manilow’s “Mandy,” complete with chord changes, to rowdy comic effect.

* A hot-picking rockabilly guitar arrangement of a New Order song, by Grant Johnson.

* Thick dissonant strummy pretty guitar chords with a nice vocal melody in a song by Eric Roper.

* Hosts Jake London and John Ramberg joining Jon Hyde near the end of a high-energy galloping cover of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” to surprise him with unexpected harmony singing on the choruses.

* Good songs by John Ramberg and Jake in their own sets; pretty guitar picking by Kurt Bloch in his.

* Music critic Peter Blackstock singing the old ‘70s hit “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues,” written by one-hit wonder Danny O’Keefe. While Peter was playing, Carla Torgerson said to me, “I wish we all could have one hit. Not just Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney. Redistribute things a little.” She was smiling and I laughed and told her how I tell my wife about “when I write my hit song,” and she doesn’t believe me. I’m all in favor of music critics playing, as these critics do. While it’s not a requirement, cursory knowledge of how a thing is done, and how it feels to do it, is good for a critic.

I played two of my new songs. Friday morning I woke up and got the idea to cover a Christy McWilson song, since I’m a fan and she was playing on the bill too. While feeding breakfast to the toddling dude before work I figured out the chords to “Night Fell” from the Picketts’ terrific album “Euphonium,” and I memorized what words hadn’t already soaked in by osmosis. I didn’t know whether I’d be playing one song or two or three. As it turned out, everybody got two songs allotted, and by the time I got on it was late, Christy had left, and I was following the rowdy versions of “Mandy” and “Surrender.” So I took the stage with an a cappella shout of my recently written Post-Election (Anti-)Unity March with words by anonymous internetters. People laughed and hooted at the punch line, “Let’s all get together, let bitterness pass / I’ll hug your elephant, you kiss my ass.” Then, having gotten everybody’s attention, I played a new quiet medium-tempo ballad, “Ms. Dish and Mr. Spoon.” And people seemed to like it, judging from the vibe and people’s comments afterwards. It’s a gratifying feeling, meeting the contingencies of the moment and connecting with people.

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